For You And For Everyone Else: An Open Letter To My Closeted Self
It's a single word that will send chills down your spine and will continue to be an endless well of pain for kids like you: "f*ggot." Kids like you, a phrase you’ll hear all too often, as if you’re different from everyone else. But, they’re right. You are different. You’re special and I promise that you’ll learn this once you accept how extraordinary you are (as corny as that might sound). Yes, I know you’re not one for clichés.
I’m not writing this letter to inform you that your journey will be smooth sailing but I will provide you with brutal honesty. By the time you turn 20 years old, it’ll be obvious how silly you were for hiding your identity to try and appear perfect to others. What truly matters isn’t this superficial notion of perfection, but what you can do now to make a difference.
Yes, you will struggle, but it is your struggle that empowered you to write this letter because you care less and less about what other people think. The most fundamental piece of advice I can offer is to always remain gracious. Not many teenagers are as lucky as you. Even in your darkest moments, remember that there is another gay boy or girl out there who has it worse, who is terrified to walk through the halls of school, who took his or her life because other human beings find it acceptable to stifle another’s individuality and beauty. This letter is just as much for them as it is for you.
You’ll eventually learn that each person’s battle with his or her sexuality is also your own. Every life lost is another heartbreak. Every tear shed is a physical manifestation of the gut-wrenching pain we feel, questioning if we’re good enough when we’re only being told we’re not. Be there for those kids because you always had a friend there when you felt like you were lost, up against a wall with absolutely nowhere to go.
Remember people, the good and the bad ones. The first weekend of your freshman year of college you will meet a girl at a lame apartment party and reconnect on a boat cruise. She’s a keeper — hold on to her. She will be a light in your darkness. Thank her because she’ll be there for you when no one else seems to understand. She will provide you with hope, make you realize that not all people will react to you so harshly. More importantly, her smile will let you know that everything will be okay — don’t take that for granted.
However, thank those who go after you as well. You’ll come across a guy who takes pleasure in trying to “ruin your life,” as he calls it. I’m warning you now — he’s going to follow you, take pictures of you making out with someone, create fake profiles on apps that you don’t have, and then threaten to tweet all this proof to the entire cyber-world that’s trying to out you after he’s already tweeted cruel things about you.
Like I said before, remain gracious. Even he must have his own struggles that you will never understand. However, you’re going to have the last laugh because the hell he put you through will make you stronger, braver and more confident. In some sort of twisted way, this will lead you to become more self-assured, comfortable with being gay and no longer ashamed.
When you do come out, the people you love the most will hit you with the very excruciating questions, “How can you do this to us?” and “Where’s your compassion?” as if being gay was something you consciously chose. As if you should have to defend yourself to those whom you thought knew you the best. They’ll sit you down, grab the latest People magazine and force you to tell them to whom you are physically attracted: Kate Middleton on the cover or the chiseled Armani model on the back. Those moments will send your feelings on a wild rollercoaster ride. Get comfortable with being alone because you’ve never felt lonelier, more embarrassed or as misunderstood as you do in that moment. You’ll never forget that night because it marks the time you officially feel like a stranger, an outcast.
All those times you’ve been called out for being different or labeled as a “gay best friend” will flood back to you. Like most things, it’ll only continue to get worse before you are able to pull yourself out of the dark abyss that is your anguish. However, as intimidating and unbelievable as it may sound, everything gets brighter. Sure, you’ll get to get a phone call while you’re at work telling you that you’re dead to someone and if he or she ever sees you again, it’ll be too soon.
But, it’s in those moments you’ll see the good in others. The most unlikely people will come to your side. After that call, you’ll have a very public breakdown on the sidewalk of New York City because one of the people on the other end is suffering from a life-threatening disease and the idea of losing them under these circumstances is unbearable. Then, out of nowhere you’ll get the warmest hug from a celebrity who lets you know that you are loved and that he/she loves you.
Remember that you are loved. Don’t use this as an excuse to be invulnerable, numbing yourself to hide from the pain within. Being vulnerable is one of the most therapeutic and honest things you can be during this period. You’ll cross paths with a guy who will tell you something you’ll never forget. “I don’t trust anyone who hasn’t been destructive.” He’s right; you will be destructive at certain points because you won’t know how to properly channel your emotions.
However, that destruction will lead to self-awareness. You’ll get to thoroughly know and love yourself, understand your place in this universe, what you want from it and what you can contribute to it. You’ll discover your purpose and your self-worth. You’ll begin to realize how absurd you were for ever believing one negative word that has anyone said to you to cause you harm. The relationships you forge will only going to become stronger.
This expedition takes time and it is incredibly difficult to effectively put into words this journey to self-acceptance or the frustration you will feel knowing that a large portion of society views your feelings as unnatural. However, don’t ever let this stop you. Don’t be afraid to fall in love. Who’s to say that you won’t have your own fairytale romance one day or that you won’t start your own family? Your ability to love is no different than those that judge you. Don’t ever mistake yourself for a victim. You are a champion.
You will disappoint people along the way, but in hindsight, they are few and far between. You would disappoint yourself more if you didn’t come to terms with your sexuality and live openly, freely and proudly. Coming out is one of the most rewarding and memorable moments you will have in life. It is the time when you’re willing to acknowledge to the world that you are you, you love yourself and you are finally happy.
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